(KFYI News) – The Internal Revenue Service is warning you to be alert for a new scam that takes the IRS' name in vain.
According to IRS officials in Phoenix, victims receive a phone call where their caller ID indicates the call is from the Internal Revenue Service. Then, the caller identifies himself or herself as an IRS agent and even gives an "employee badge number" to make it sound legitimate.
Next, the caller informs the potential victim that they owe several thousand dollars in back taxes and that immediate payment is required to avoid arrest. The caller tells the potential victim that payment can only be made by buying a prepaid debit card, then providing the debit card number. No other method of payment is acceptable.
IRS agent Lisa Sukenic, who spoke at the news conference, said even she was targeted. The caller asked for her by name. However, Sukenic wasn't home. The call was answered by her husband, who is a prosecutor in the US Attorney's office. He knew it was a scam and told the caller so.
An hour later, Sukenic said, her husband received another call from someone claiming to be an IRS supervisor, saying that he and a Phoenix police officer were on their way to the house to make an arrest for non-payment of taxes.
Sukenic says the IRS doesn't operate that way. If you owe taxes, the IRS send you a letter. They also don't ask for your personal information, such as your address and Social Security number because the IRS would already have that information. Finally, they NEVER ask for payment over the phone.
In another case, a man received a call from someone threatening to revoke the man's immigration status if he didn't pay. The man's wife was out running errands, so he called her and asked her to stop at the IRS office to clear up the situation. The woman stopped at the IRS' Taxpayer Assistance Center in Phoenix to straighten things out. There, a taxpayer assistance specialist looked up the couple's account and told them that they had no outstanding tax obligations and that they should ignore the threat.
Fortunately, they found that out before paying any money.
In the past year, the IRS estimates that at least 1,100 victims have lost a collective $5 million to this scam, and they believe that a number of victims haven't even bothered to come forward due to embarrassment.
If you get such a call, the IRS suggests telling the caller that you know it's a scam and you're going to immediately report them to the police. If you can get a callback number from the scammer, call the number back to verify that it's really the scammers, and then provide that number to police or to the IRS at (800) 366-4484.
If you think you may owe taxes, call the IRS at (800) 829-1040 to verify.
If you receive an e-mail purporting to be from the IRS and demanding payment, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org .
The IRS emphasizes that it never uses e-mail, text messages, or social media to discuss your personal tax issues, and NEVER asks for Social Security numbers, credit card, debit card, prepaid card, or bank account information over the phone.